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Relationships between 'the good life' and ressource consumption have to change - but how will we get there?

  • 1.  Relationships between 'the good life' and ressource consumption have to change - but how will we get there?

    Posted 02-07-2018 03:03

    The British Independent has brought this article, based on a newly published study that finds that wealthy nations must 'dramatically reduce resource use' as our planet does not have sufficient resources to maintain current perceptions of what the 'highest quality of life is' for everyone. The study even finds that "currently, there are no countries that meet the needs of their populations without overusing resources...."

    Ideas about 'the good life' therefore have to change! But how do we get there? Please post your thoughts and ideas in this thread.

    #SSCPKAN #SustainableConsumption 


  • 2.  RE: Relationships between 'the good life' and ressource consumption have to change - but how will we get there?

    Posted 02-08-2018 06:07
      |   view attached

    How to establish more responsible consumption patterns is indeed a key question for the transition towards a more sustainable system. The H2020 project 'FoTRRIS' (Fostering the Transition towards Responsible R&I Systems) developed some insights and methodological frameworks that may be relevant here.

    The current system presents a lock-in of four combined subsystems (or drivers):

    1. Consumption patterns (linked with cultural beliefs, habits, social memes, values etc)
    2. Production models / business models linked with assumptions about 'what the economy is' - i.c. "a sector aiming at its own growth and private profit" (as opposed to "the societal function of resource allocation to the needs of all living beings embedded in enterprises pursuing social benefit/common good") 
    3. Monetary design: 'extractive' bank money based on debt and with positive interest, fuelling the need for economic growth and leading to a tipping point where "to make money" becomes the aim of all economic activity (as opposed to 'generative money', interest free loans, community currencies, crowdfunding etc as means to pursue the common good within planetary boundaries)
    4. Regulation, legal and paradigmatic frameworks, mostly aiming at incremental improvements of current system (as opposed to changing the system).

    Most 'sustainability' approaches address only one of these four drivers, which is why they yield little impact in terms of system change (or may even have a perverse effect of green washing the prevailing system).  Addressing the interaction among all four drivers is the core of 'Responsible R&I'. It means innovators have to 'tread carefully' in complex and non-linear (unpredictable) conditions. It has long been the assumption of researchers and innovators that what is good on a small scale (e.g. what is proven beneficial in laboratory conditions, or what works well for one community) will create more global well-being if it is scaled up. Given the complex dynamics of the real world, this assumption is proven false. (Example: antibiotics are beneficial for health at small scale, but cause large scale health risks.)

    Since RRI has to address all four leverages, it is always co-created with actors from the 'quadruple helix': Civil Society Organisations (aiming at sustainable lifestyles), businesses (interested in social benefits), academics (interested in RRI) and leaders (interested in transition).  Hence RRI is always CO-RRI (common good oriented and co-created). Many innovations towards sustainability are launched by non-academic actors such as local politics (sharing cities, green cities etc), small businesses (CSA farmers, cooperatives, social entrepreneurs, benefit corps etc) and citizens (crowdfunding, sharing resources and services, peer-to-peer practices etc). Recognising them as crucial actors for RRI is a key leverage for fostering the transition.

    In terms of sustainable consumption, there is evidence that 'sustainable communities' or 'peer to peer practices' generate a lot of well-being while drastically reducing resource use.

    See for example Kropp, J. (2016). Potential of Community-based Sustainability Initiatives to Mitigate Climate Change - Results from TESS. Potsdam: Institute for Climate Impact Research.;
    See also  Piques Céline & Rizos X. (2017). Peer to Peer and the Commons: a path towards transition. A matter, energy and thermodynamic perspective. 

    If it is more effective to promote sustainable consumption patterns by creating 'collective stepping stones' (such as sustainable communities, cities or neighbourhoods, Transition Towns, Repair Cafés etc), the next question is how to stimulate citizens to join this kind of initiatives. Since bank money is extractive, citizens are always 'incentivised' to get the cheapest deal, and are nudged towards more consumption (by companies competing for making money). So that is where community currencies with a generative design have a crucial role to play.  Some sustainable communities (e.g. Totnes transition town, Mutual Aid Networks) have understood this and created their local money. Policy makers too can stimulate sustainable consumption by 'valorising' citizens who contribute to the common good – not with bank money (which could be used to buy a plane ticket) but with local money (which can be made useable only for sustainable consumption, e.g. train tickets, locally produced food etc).

    And so the next question is: how do we make people  aware of all these new possibilities? The FoTRRIS project believes that educating all young people (the citizens, entrepreneurs, leaders and researchers of tomorrow) with this frame of reference will allow them to design their own stepping stones towards sustainable life styles. Of course, changing curricula will take (too) much time, but there are plenty of other possibilities (MOOCs, summer schools, etc). What is needed is for academic regulation to stimulate this (in terms of student accreditation, PhD requirements, funds allocated to CO-RRI, research validation etc. So hopefully Future Earth can play an important advocacy role in this. 




    EuropeDD16_Snick.pdf   504K 1 version

  • 3.  RE: Relationships between 'the good life' and ressource consumption have to change - but how will we get there?

    Posted 02-08-2018 08:05
    Thanks very much for your comments and reflections, Anne, and for sharing references with us!
    Your points about treating aspects of sustainable consumption and production as complex interrelations between 'sub-systems' are similar to what we work with in the Future Earth Knowledge Action Network on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production. If you are not already familiar with the KAN, I would very much like to invite you to visit our web page and to attend our upcoming webinars - they might be of interest to you :) Our next webinar discusses some of the concerns you also raise in the last part of your message - how to engage people in new ideas and concepts about sustainable living, and how can we work with (co-produced) ideas and concepts of futures that are less resource intensive.

    Our web page is Future Earth Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production and you can also find recordings of previous webinars here.
    To attend our webinars, please sign up here

    #SSCPKAN #SustainableConsumption ​​

  • 4.  RE: Relationships between 'the good life' and ressource consumption have to change - but how will we get there?

    Posted 02-08-2018 16:39
    Earth Accounting on Twitter 

    Alberto Saavedra

  • 5.  RE: Relationships between 'the good life' and ressource consumption have to change - but how will we get there?

    Posted 02-12-2018 08:51
    Thanks for tweeting about this topic, Alberto! :)